Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bob Rathbun is pretty annoying

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the the New York Knicks play in Atlanta against the Hawks. I watched the game via NBATV which used a feed from the home team's local network, FSN South. The Knicks lost and were ineffective for a solid portion of the road game. Any time the Knicks were able to get within striking distance of the Hawks, Atlanta would tighten down and pull away again. Atlanta finished with a decisive win over the Knicks who without two of their top players did not look very good. It wasn't a great night as a New York fan.

However the New York lost wasn't the worst part of my evening. That distinction rested in listening to Atlanta Hawks play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun call the game with NBA legend Dominque Wilkins. Now it's no surprise that team commentators are always pulling for their team and I have no problem with that. As a Knicks fan, I would want to listen to Mike Breen and Walt Frazier consistently glorifying opposing players or coaches. These network deal specifically with one team and everyone should understand the need to protect this relationship between the network, team and fans. Announcers, commentators, and analyst for the network are usually a bit gentler with bad play or controversy within the team. They might not ignore it but they don't usually aggressively dissect the problem.

But Bob Rathbun takes this team allegiance to another level. During tonight's game it felt as if the network found the most obnoxious Hawks fan and handed him a mic.

Rathbun is no newcomer to the field of sports broadcasting. He has worked for other teams, networks, and sports for a long time. He's won many awards for his work as well. Based on his achievements, he seems like a well liked commentator throughout the Southern region. He even has his own Youtube Vlog where he discusses sports, particularly college football. Including one great video (right) where he points out that the real victim of the Penn State Sandusky situation was the truth. Not the poor molested children but the rather the morally bankrupt system that makes it uncomfortable for coaches and players to tell "the truth" to the police about children being raped. What a shame.

Tonight was one of my first chances to listen to a Hawks broadcast. So I hadn't previously been exposed to Rathbun's quality broadcasting that he brings to the state of Georgia on a regular basis.

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. Rathbun came off like a loudmouth homer who felt like everyone was against the Hawks. Throughout the night, he predictably sided with the Hawks on most close calls. He took a defensive stance when the call (correctly or not) was in favor of the Knicks and got upset over no-calls.

One notable example was a foul call on Josh Smith. Smith went for a block on a NY player who was driving to the basket. Smith was successful but a foul was called on the Atlanta forward. Rathbun immediately objected. During the first replay of the foul he declared that the call was baseless saying definitively that the block was "clean." Maybe he was right. But from the camera angle it was difficult to see the complete body contact between the players. Most commentators would have said something to the effect of: "I'm not so sure about that call, from that angle it looked like a clean block." But Emmy award winning Rathbun, decided that there was in fact no contact and the refs had made a terrible call.

Perhaps not a big deal if this was a one time occurrence, but throughout the night he reacted to calls with similar sureness. Maybe this is something that Atlanta fans don't mind as much because he is sticking up for his team. Maybe this was a weird night for Rathbun. But for a Knicks fan, it became increasingly annoying listening to this die hard Atlanta fan stick up for them on every single call. Especially when the team was in control for a good portion of the game.

I think perhaps the most comical moment of the night was a comparison of two similar events during the night. One occasion during the half half, Zaza Pachulia was setting a screen but did a poor job and moved a lot while the players moved over the screen. However the refs called a foul on New York instead. The Knicks complained and the FSN decided to show a replay. The replay clearly showed Pachulia moving his feet more than some fat nerd playing Dance Dance Revolution. No big deal, the refs just missed a call, happens all the time. So predictably the refs did their unspoken customary "make-up call" immediately on the inbound and penalized Pachulia for a small push off on Tyson Chandler. Something that probably would have normally been ignored, but the refs were making everything right. But Rathbun, being the Atlanta supporter he is, mostly overlooked the Pachulia movement. But he did have a problem with the refs calling the make-up foul. A little hypocritical, but it gets worst.

This sequence of calls was followed by Rathbun complaining, like a whiny teenage fan, throughout the game when he felt the refs missed moving screen calls on Chandler. Several times during the course of the game he felt Chandler preformed a moving screen and the refs missed it. He began to get audibly upset over the no calls. Then finally, late in the game he finally got his release when the refs called a moving screen on Chandler. Rathbun exuded happily with validation and frustration at the same time. Still upset over the referees not making earlier calls. There's no pleasing this guy.

Perhaps I am just upset because the Knicks loss, and having to hear this jerk complaining throughout the game despite the Hawks leading. But I really am starting to appreciate the Knicks broadcasters tonight. They may quietly root for the Knicks, but at least (in my opinion) it's not on an obnoxious level. They are willing to give the refs the benefit of the doubt and even admit when they are right on calls that go in the opposing teams favor. Rather than complaining about the call, they will talk about what the Knick player did wrong in the situation. Unlike Rathbun who functions on a level of annoying, confident, self-serving fan who reacts to the game in the same manner of a drunken Celtics fans and or frat boys. Hopefully, I can avoid listening to Rathbun in the near future. New York will play the Hawks one more time this year but it will be broadcasted via ESPN. Outside of that the Knicks won't see the Hawks unless they play in the playoffs. But even then, the match-up will be carried nationally rather than off FSN South. So at the very worst I will at least go until this fall without having to listen to Rathbun's award winning voice.

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